Electric car charging points: Plans for affordable and accessible EV charging in the UK

Date Posted 17th February 2022
Read Time 5 min read

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), has released a seven-point plan to ensure that every driver in the UK can benefit from an electric vehicle charging network that is affordable, available, and accessible. The trade association is calling for a stronger collaboration between the government and industry to work closely with charge point operators and local authorities so that more of the right chargers can be installed in the right places, across every part of the UK.

The plans also call for the creation of a new independent regulatory body, ‘Ofcharge’ (the Office of Charging), to monitor the market and mandate the rollout of electric car charging points around the country. More importantly, Ofcharge would also oversee the charging price levels and affordability and enforce regulated minimum standards.

The idea is to equip every region of the UK with the right resources to prepare for the Road to Zero initiative’s goal to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030. SMMT’s seven-step plan proposes a unified approach to bringing drivers, charge point operators, energy companies, and local authorities together.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: “The automotive industry is up for the challenge of a zero-emission new car and van market by 2035. 

“Delivering this ambition – an ambition that would put the UK ahead of every major market in the world – needs more than automotive investment,” he continued. “It needs the commensurate commitment of all other stakeholders, especially the charging industry as surveys show that range anxiety has been replaced by charging anxiety.”

SMMT’s seven-step plan to delivering consumer-centric electric car charging points for zero emission mobility:

SMMT's seven-step plan to delivering consumer-centric electric car charging points for zero emission mobility:

Since 2011, the UK government, local authorities and the charging infrastructure sector have successfully delivered a 3,000 per cent increase in the number of standard public charging points. The UK’s provision of one rapid charger per 32 battery electric vehicles is the best in the Western world, behind only China (1:11), South Korea (1:12) and Japan (1:17).

However, the proposed strategy keeps drivers at the heart of planning as the demand for electric vehicles continues to surge. More than one in six new cars sold in 2021 was electric and whilst EVs are growing in popularity, SMMT has found EV charging infrastructure has struggled to keep pace with providing reasonably-priced and widely-available electric car charging points.

To give all drivers the confidence they will be able to charge as easily as they refuel, wherever they live or work, SMMT is proposing a nationally-coordinated and locally-delivered infrastructure plan that puts the needs of consumers first. While also giving charge point operators and local authorities certainty to install the correct number of EV charging points in the most-needed places across the UK.

It’s not just an uptake in EVs that illustrates a need for a more coherent charging point rollout. It’s also the staggering rise in plug-in cars that are currently on the road, which grew by a phenomenal 280 per cent between 2019 and 2021. Standard charge points, on the other hand, increased by only 69 per cent in the same period.

Meanwhile, battery electric cars rose by a huge 586 per cent in comparison to rapid and ultra-rapid charger stock going up by only 82 per cent. The disparity between supply and demand is undermining consumer confidence to make the switch, with range anxiety now replaced by charging anxiety.

Although most current plug-in car users charge at home, public chargers remain critical to driver confidence. Public electric car charging points are still relied upon by commercial fleets, and drivers who don’t have designated off-street parking.

Furthermore, drivers face a growing regional divide in charge point availability.

Though there are currently 14,000 locations, 24,000 devices, and 40,000 connectors mapped in the UK, there is a significant north-south divide in the number of affordable and easy-to-access electric car charging points in the UK.

At the end of 2020, the ratio of electric cars to standard public chargers was 1:37 in the north of England, compared with 1:26 in the south.

In 2021, the ratio deteriorated significantly in the north to 1:52, compared with 1:30 in the south.

With car makers having already invested billions of pounds to bring more than 140 models of plug-in vehicles to the UK market and 55 more to be launched this year, a guarantee on infrastructure provision will give Britain’s drivers the assurance to make the switch in even greater numbers.

Mike added: “With clear, equivalent targets and support for operators and local authorities that match consumer needs, the government can ensure the UK has a charge point network that makes electric mobility a reality for all, cutting emissions, driving growth and supporting consumers across the UK.”

SMMT predicts that if their plan is put in place, the new plug-in car market will continue to grow rapidly. They envision the market to comprise 9.3 million plug-in cars by 2030 and 18.4 million by 2035, of which 6.9 million and 15.3 million respectively are zero emission. This will ensure that road transport delivers its part in the UK becoming the first major net-zero nation.